Teach Me

By Jamie Hallberg


Education major Jamie Hallberg completed her student intern position at Denali Elementary School in Fairbanks.

education major Jamie Hallberg kept a journal during her student teaching year, and discovered that learning to teach was more exhausting and exhilarating than she’d expected.

September 2012: Double duty

Prior to my internship as a student teacher, I was a student through and through. Now I’m learning how to create balance out of chaos, and my role has been altered. I am both a teacher and a student, and managing these dual roles simultaneously is a more complex task than I imagined it would be. I thought everything would be clear-cut: when I was at UAF I would strictly be a student and when I was at Denali Elementary I would only be a teacher. Somewhere along the way, the line I had drawn in my mind dividing the two blurred.

Walking into the classroom at the beginning of the year I felt like I had finally made it. This was the last step before becoming a certified teacher! It was my chance to truly experience what life in an elementary school is like on a day-to-day basis.

I had been enjoying the role of teacher until one of my students informed me that I wasn’t a real teacher. That comment really stung. Even though I am taking on more responsibility in my mentor’s classroom everyday, I’m not a “real” teacher yet. During parent-teacher conferences a few of the parents even referred to me as a teacher aide, which was completely deflating. Being an elementary education intern is like working two jobs: I spend my week bouncing between a place where I am the student and another where I am the teacher, and never really settling in either character.

My mentor, Mrs. [Cindy] Kennedy, ’81, is in charge of not only educating her class but also guiding me as I learn to be an effective educator. This is tricky because she has to relinquish some of her control in the classroom and watch as I make mistakes, hoping that the benefit of me making mistakes will one day outweigh the costs.

As for me, I’m all over the place. Some days I’m up at UAF planning a lesson or reflecting on one I just taught. I’m not just teaching lessons; I’m learning how to teach them. Mrs. Kennedy is amazing about giving me feedback on things I’ve taught and is always willing to help me create a seamless lesson.

“UAF doesn’t offer a pet store lady degree, so I went with elementary education.”

I suppose I’m not the only one having to adjust to having a dual role. Somewhere along the way all of us — my mentor, my students and I — acquired new and unexpected roles. Some days we are more one than the other, but I don’t think a day goes by when any one of us is just a teacher or just a student. I am truly finding this year what it means and what it takes to be a lifelong learner.

November 2012: Sweat and tears

When I began my journey pursing a bachelor’s of elementary education, I knew it would be challenging, stressful and in the end rewarding. Signing up for the program, I didn’t realize track and field training was a prerequisite, but I soon found that I had a lot hurdles to jump to become an educator.

To get to where I am today I needed to test drive two different degree programs, survive a family tragedy and fall on my face, hard. It took me nearly hitting rock bottom to realize that if I was going to make something out of my life, no one was going to pave the way to make it possible. After abandoning my previous academic paths I went in search of a degree that would make me happy. As a child I had dreamed of being two things: a pet store lady and a teacher. UAF doesn’t offer a pet store lady degree, so I went with elementary education.

The first time I heard myself addressed as Miss Hallberg by a student, it melted my heart, and I knew my life was on the right track. Four years and about 35 classes later, I know no other profession would make me as happy. I’m thrilled to be on the last leg of my journey, student teaching in a fifth-grade classroom at Denali Elementary School [in Fairbanks]. I love being in the classroom, but I have to say the UAF education program has caused me more sweat and tears than I care to admit.